London Fire Brigade

Drying clothes by barbecue leaves six people in hospital

05 January 2013

Six people including four young children were taken to hospital with carbon monoxide poisoning after a woman used a barbecue indoors to dry her clothes.

Fire chiefs have branded the behaviour ‘dangerous’ and today the London Fire Brigade is urging people to get a carbon monoxide  alarm as well as smoke alarms. The warning comes at the same time as a Coronation Street storyline about carbon monoxide poisoning from a faulty boiler.

London Fire Brigade‘s Head of Operations, Prevention and Response Dave Brown said:

“In my 28 year career I have never heard of anybody using a barbecue to dry clothes let alone using one indoors.

“Never, ever bring a lit or smouldering barbecue indoors, not only is it a serious fire risk but it also omits carbon monoxide which is a poisonous gas that can kill or seriously injure.

“We would also urge people to invest in a carbon monoxide alarm. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer, with at least 50 deaths recorded nationally every year. Despite this, the majority of people still do not have a CO alarm in their home.”

At around 3pm on Wednesday 2 January an elderly woman was drying some washing in the kitchen of a house on Hockley Avenue in East Ham. To speed the drying up she decided to use her garden barbecue, so she lit some wood and when it had stopped smoking she carried the barbecue into the kitchen and placed it near the back door. She then placed the washing around it and left the back door open.

She then left the property, leaving her two daughters in law and four grandchildren in the house. Two of the children were in the living room and two were upstairs asleep. One of the adults was in the living room and the other in the front room. After she left one of the occupants closed the back door.

Later one of the adults, who has in the house, made a call to a relative saying she felt unwell. She visited the house and noticed a strange smell and opened the back door and took the barbecue outside. When she re-entered the house one of the children collapsed and an ambulance was called and two adults and four children were taken to hospital by London Ambulance Service crews. All six now been discharged from hospital.

Firefighters, including a rapid response ‘hazardous materials’ team, were called to the scene but fortunately the family had escaped by the time they arrived on the scene. Crews ventilated the home and used specialist monitoring equipment to check that the poisonous gas had dispersed before handing the incident over to the police.

Christine McGourty, Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! campaign spokesperson, said:

“Carbon monoxide is called the silent killer because you can’t see it, smell it or taste it, meaning installing an audible alarm, that sounds when carbon monoxide is present, is the only way to ensure a household is protected. These are readily available online and in all DIY stores and are really easy to install”

“Using a barbeque indoors is always dangerous, but carbon monoxide poisoning is usually caused by faulty or poorly maintained fuel appliances, such as boilers, ovens and fires. We’d urge everyone to get an alarm and make sure their family is safe.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Picture

The picture attached is the barbecue from the incident taken once it had been placed outside.

In April last year a six-year-old girl died after inhaling carbon monoxide fumes from a barbecue her parents had brought into their tent to keep her warm at a campsite at Bransgore in the New Forest, Hampshire.

Carbon Monoxide – Be Alarmed! is the national campaign to reduce the number of deaths and injuries caused by carbon monoxide. The campaign is run by Energy UK on behalf of Britain’s six major gas and electricity companies in partnership with the Dominic Rodgers Trust, and is supported by more than 40 other organisations. Find out more at www.co-bealarmed.co.uk.

Carbon monoxide is produced when fuels such as gas, oil, charcoal, coal and wood do not burn completely. The most common cause of this is when an appliance, such as a boiler or cooker, is installed incorrectly or poorly maintained. Carbon monoxide can also build up when flues, chimneys or vents are blocked.

Top tips to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning

1.Fit an audible carbon monoxide alarm. It should meet European standard EN50291.  Carbon Monoxide alarms are a similar size to smoke alarms and only take a few minutes to fit.  They need to be put in a central location in the house and can be fixed to the wall or can be placed on a table, bookshelf or shelf.
2.Have fuel-burning appliances serviced annually by an appropriately qualified and registered engineer.
3.Don’t block ventilation and have chimneys swept at least once a year
4.Know the main symptoms: headaches, dizziness, nausea, breathlessness, collapsing and loss of consciousness. Keys signs are if symptoms clear up when you are away from home and come back when you return, or if other people in your household experience similar symptoms.
5.Watch out for soot or yellow/brown staining on or around your appliance, a lazy yellow / orange coloured gas flame rather than a sharp blue one or pilot lights which blow out frequently.